Autism spectrum disorder is a term used by some people to include and replace all other types of autism, including autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder (not otherwise specified).
Autism spectrum disorder is a condition that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder vary enormously from each other but they all share the two 'core' features of autism:
- persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction. For example, they may find it hard to begin or carry on a conversation, they may not understand social rules such as how far to stand from somebody else, or they may find it difficult to make friends.
- Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities. For example, they may develop an overwhelming interest in something, they may follow inflexible routines or rituals, they may make repetitive body movements, or they may be hypersensitive to certain sounds.
There is no cure for autism spectrum disorder but there are some interventions, treatments and therapies which can help solve some of the problems faced by people with autism spectrum disorder and their families.
The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published in 2013 eliminates the subtypes of autism, such as Asperger syndrome, into one diagnosis called autism spectrum disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association, this represents an effort to more accurately diagnose all individuals showing the signs of autism.
The current version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) - the main diagnostic criteria used in the UK - identifies different subtypes of autism.
The next version of International Classification of Diseases(1CD-11) is due to be published in 2015 when the position of subtypes will be reviewed.